In 1971 Bernard Levin wrote an excoriating article in The Times about the lately deceased former Lord Chief Justice Rayner Goddard, a noisome piece of legal excrement who is said to have ejaculated when consigning the (possibly) guilty to the hangman’s care. Levin had previous with Goddard: in 1958 he had attacked the vicious old bastard in The Spectator, occasioning a clandestine meeting at which the higher judiciary considered whether the uppity columnist might be done for criminal libel. He wasn’t. But after the 1971 piece appeared Levin’s application to join the Garrick was blackballed, supposedly a sort of revenge. A year earlier, Jeremy Paxman, then an undergraduate at Cambridge, had witnessed the ‘riot’ at the Garden House Hotel, when a few hundred young protesters had demonstrated against a ‘Greek Week’ – soft propaganda for the Colonels’ regime – that was culminating in a dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. The police reacted with their usual sensitivity. Arrests were made. The sentences at the subsequent trial were preposterously harsh and vindictive. They were handed down by a judge whom Paxman, lifting from Orwell, describes as a ‘gouty old bully’.
Now, Paxman, having survived one blackballing a quarter of a century ago, is at last a member of the purgatorial Garrick. He is entitled to its tie, which seems designed for the colour-blind, and to participate in its fine tradition of boring for Europe. He must know perfectly well that